Medical Cannabis Campaigner

Sitting Down With... Tracy Ryan, CEO and founder of CannaKids.

Could you share a little of your background?

To cut a long and quite entertaining story very short, I grew up in Tennessee, moved to Florida to be a resident DJ in a nightclub and ended up in Los Angeles, working on feature films and events management. But that didn’t match the lifestyle I wanted; in particular, I wanted to have a kid, so to gain flexibility I started my own business. Just as my company and family was growing, my 8.5 month-old daughter – Sophie – was diagnosed with brain cancer and everything changed. It was the hardest period of our lives.

How did you get into the world of medical cannabis?

Ricki Lake! Two weeks after Sophie’s diagnosis, I got connected to Ricki and Abby Epstein through social media. They were doing a documentary called “Weed the People” that focused on cannabis use for pediatric cancer patients. I already loved and trusted these women; I’d met Abby when I was six months’ pregnant with Sophie – I waited outside where she was speaking, like a stalker, just so I could meet her. Little did I know she would end up being my friend. Many people had already told us to try cannabis – I thought they had all smoked too much! But Ricki and Abby started sending me scientific evidence and stories about kids benefiting from cannabis and so I did my own research and just couldn’t find anything negative about it. I decided that we should to do everything we could for our little girl.

And how did that lead to CannaKids?

I had created a Facebook group where parents could talk about cannabis use in a secret forum; for example, I was able to share all the miracles that were happening to my own daughter’s body. I grew aware that there weren’t many quality cannabis oil makers – and even fewer who cared about lab testing and dosing for children. So that’s how CannaKids and SavingSophie.org were born. Firstly, we wanted to help people with the extremely difficult task of navigating through all the information online. Secondly, we wanted to create a company that was run by people who understood the importance of high quality medicine.

It sounds like an emotional roller coaster...

It certainly was. About a week into Sophie’s diagnosis, we felt like we were going through a death every day; we were living in a waking nightmare. Our little girl was facing toxic treatments and an uncertain prognosis; we had no idea what the future was going to hold for her. I remember sitting on the couch with my husband, grieving, when I suddenly felt a wave of peace – “I believe Sophie has a message and we are her messengers,” I said. “I feel like she chose this life and she chose us – and something beautiful will come out of this.” Within 72 hours we were connected to Rikki and Abby. I honestly believe that my daughter was sick so that others could be healed – and that’s exactly what has happened. It has been one of the most incredibly difficult, emotionally draining but also rewarding experiences – one that you could never fathom going through.

How do you approach quality and analytical testing?

First of all, we ensure we know and trust the people we work with. For example, we know our suppliers grow their flowers in organic soil and without pesticides. But even though we’ve been using them for two years, we still use analytical labs to test the flowers every single time, without fail. I am not an expert in oil extraction, so we use people who fully understand the plants and the process. After the extraction, we test our products again for pesticides and various other potential contaminants, using well-respected contract analytical laboratories. In fact, we work with three different labs and regularly check that they are in line with each other, so we know the results are as accurate as they can be.

Do we need more regulation and more analysis?

Absolutely. I don’t think any product should be allowed into a dispensary unless it has been tested – and I know that about 85 percent of all products right now in California are not. I’m personally excited to see more regulations come into play in California in 2018, when analytical testing will be mandatory. There will also be more tracking of the grow process.

Ultimately, we would love to build cGMP facility to prepare for FDA and DEA intervention Indeed, we are actively seeking a license to grow and stabilize the strains that have been most beneficial to diseases – no easy task! But we’re passionate about taking medical cannabis to the next level – and before it’s forced upon us.

Where do you see the future of medical cannabis?

I fully believe that in the next 5–10 years we’re going to see hospitals all over the world adopting medical cannabis. Truly groundbreaking scientists and doctors believe in this plant because they have seen how it helps patients get through chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I believe we’re at the forefront of a medical revolution; the way we treat patients is going to change before our very eyes.